Kaunain Sheriff M speaks to survivors of the Hashimpura killings and finds out how they have struggled for 27 years without compensation.
On January 8, while closing their arguments on the massacre of 1987 in Hashimpura, Meerut, senior advocates Rebecca John and Vrinda Grover made a case for compensation to survivors. For a mass killing in which the number of victims has never been established, and for which no survivor has got compensation in 27 years, their counsel submitted “clinching evidence” to help identify victims.
John placed a photo of Mohd Yaseen, then 65, clicked by Praveen Jain, then a photojournalist with Sunday Mail and now with The Indian Express. It was through this photo, placed on record as evidence, that Mohd Akhlaq had identified Yaseen, his father, who is suspected to have been one of the victims though his body was never found. Forty-two families had lost their loved ones, their counsel told the Tis Hazari courts.
On Saturday, the court referred Yaseen’s family and eight others to the Legal Services Authority for rehab. “Although the accused persons have to be acquitted in this case, this court also feels that [there is] requirement for rehabilitation of the victims and affected families,” additional sessions judge Sanjay Jindal ruled. Five of those referred are survivors — Mohd Naeem, and four The Indian Express spoke to.
(Read also: They played dead and got to live)
Mujibur Rehman and Babuddin
In Hashimpura today, the houses are cramped and waste oozes out of damaged sewers. In one such house is the textile “factory” where Babuddin and Mujibur Rehman work. Both had suffered bullet injuries. “It has been like this for years. These sewers were laid before I was born,” Babuddin says. “I was 15 when the incident happened. For five years, I would be scared of almost everything.” Babuddin and Rehman, both from Darbhanga, went back to their villages but later came back. “We earn Rs 5,000. We stay on the rooftop of the factory,” say Rehman.
About the compensation, Rehman says, “Do you see this mohalla? Only two Hindu families live here. Governments have come and gone. No one cared for us then; why will they do so now?” Babuddin and Mujibur have two children each, all in school back home.
‘Told Rajiv he didn’t visit’
In a dim metal workshop in Meerut, Zulfiqar helps his father Abdul Jabbar. “We use to have this workshop at Hashimpura. We late moved out. Four families depend on this workshop,” says Zulfiqar, eldest of three, who looks after the workshop as well as his brothers’ businesses. “Had I been better educated, I could have looked after my brothers well,” says Zulfiqar.
“I was injured in the armpit. I have fought for every family affected,” he says. “When Rajiv Gandhi came for a padayatra, he did not even enter the mohalla. Whom did he fear, the Muslims? I was stopped, but I went to him and told him you did not bother to give us compensation, but could at least have made an attempt to visit us.” His father counters, “Chandrashekarji held a press conference with my son. Everyone heard us that day, but the government comfortably chose to ignore us.”
‘Can’t Expect anything’
“I don’t go there. It is too painful ,” says Usman, now 64, the eldest of the survivors. He left Hashimpura after the joint family fell into debt and sold off their house. Usman, who has carried a limp since he was shot in the leg, now sells fruits at the market. Any mention of compensation makes him angry. “For two months, I was at AIIMS. The police, government knew it but did not give a paisa for my treatment. Do you think I can expect something from them now?”